Posts Tagged ‘Insects’

A Week on Muck

June 18, 2017

I have just spent a rather wet and windy week on Muck with the Inverness Botany Group. I decided to record on a monad (1 km square) basis as there are only 13 and none has 100% land. However, it spreads over four 10km squares, three of which have no other land in VC 104. We made over 1,800 records and as well as re-finding old records of many species, we added Carex extensa (Long-bracted Sedge), Carex limosa (Bog-sedge), Carlina vulgaris (Carline Thistle) and Valeriana officinalis (Common Valerian) to the Muck list.

Fumaria bastardii (Tall Ramping-fumitory), distinguished by its large flowers but small stipules, was a good find with only two previous sites (on Muck and Eigg) in VC104 and no record since 1999.

Fumaria bastardii Muck

Fumaria bastardii (Tall Ramping-fumitory)

Some Myriophyllum in  brackish pools led me to hope for M. spicatum for which there are no accepted records for VC 104, as this is the habitat in which it is found on Coll and Tiree and the Outer Isles.

However, the inflorescence being <3cm and the tip drooping in bud plus the basal whorl of flowers being in leaf-like pinnatisect bracts then others in pectinate bracts, tells me that it is the locally frequent M. alterniflorum.

Muck Myriophyllum 3

We also recorded a number of insects, mammals…..

The Belted Beauty has yet to be recorded on Skye.

Also fungi, some of which are awaiting identification….

Later: Bruce tells me the fungus on Silene flos-cuculi is Septoria lychnidis, or as NBN has it Caryophylloseptoria lychnidis, and that it is found on other members of the genus too.

Back Home

June 8, 2017

Bruce has identified this fungus on our Bay (Laurus nobilis) as Phomopsis lauri, which he says is surprisingly rare.

Laurus nobilis upper lf surface

Phomopsis lauri on Bay

I found this hoverfly in the conservatory which, subject to final inspection, Murdo says is Scaeva selenitica, and “I have found that only four times before, and not since 2012”.

The NBN distribution map looks like this:

Scaeva selenitica map

What one can find without leaving house and garden…..

Skye Botany Group at Staffin

June 4, 2017

Yesterday we went to a coastal area near Staffin and recorded 191 taxa in a previously under-recorded tetrad, NG56D.

The following were new to the 10km square NG56:

Blysmus rufus (Saltmarsh Flat-sedge)
Carex hostiana x lepidocarpa
Eleocharis multicaulis (Many-stalked Spike-rush)
Fraxinus excelsior (Ash) (Planted)
Gymnadenia borealis (Heath Fragrant-orchid) (But only because older records had not been assigned to what was then a subspecies Gymnadenia conopsea subsp. borealis)
Lemna minor (Common Duckweed)
Luzula multiflora subsp. congesta (Heath Wood-rush)
Saxifraga x urbium (Londonpride) (Roadside, garden throw-out)
Triglochin maritima (Sea Arrowgrass)

and Ribes nigrum (Black Currant) about 2 metres outside the tetrad in NG56C.
We also spotted a number of insects, leaf-mines, leaf-spots and rusts, some of which are still to be determined.

Moth Trap

June 1, 2017

Last night the moth trap attracted 23 moths including a Beautiful Brocade and a Light Knot Grass, which I have not had before.  The Light Knot Grass is a bit worn.

I also attracted a fine caddis fly:

Caddis 170601

but I don’t think I am going to get it determined to species.


May 29, 2017

Legend has it that Storab, son of a Viking king, was shipwrecked and sought refuge on Raasay – or was part of a raiding party. The islanders chased him to what is now Loch Storab where he swam to the island in the middle. The islanders, who couldn’t swim, drained the loch and chased him down what is now the Storab Burn, killing him at the place now called Storab’s Grave where there is a large cairn.

When Harrison Birtwistle lived on Raasay the last piece he completed was called Duets for Storab, a piece for two flutes, based on this tale.

I have a couple of issues with this story – there is no island in Loch Storab and Storab’s Grave is on the right bank of the Allt a Bhràghad, which flows into Storab’s Burn after meandering downhill for about 1 km.

Alternatively, Big Storab, son of the King of Denmark, visited a house which stood close by what is now Storab’s Grave when he and the occupants had a dispute. On his departure he was followed and stabbed with a dirk, and buried where he fell.

But hey, Loch Storab is home to the Nationally Scarce Deschampsia setacea (Bog Hair-grass) and whilst it is not yet flowering, it was easy to spot today if you know where to look:

Deschampsia setacea

Deschampsia setacea

Not the prettiest picture I have ever put on the blog, so here are a couple of things that are in flower:

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and a couple that were not:

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Further down the Storab Burn than I went today, beyond Loch Eadar dà Bhaile, there is said to be a stone circle.

Finally some insects:

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Thanks to Nigel and Seth for probable caddisfly identification. Interestingly, the caddisfly Philopotamus montanus was recorded from the small loch south west of Loch na Meilich in 1934 by J. W and G. Heslop Harrison, which is in the adjacent monad (same tetrad).

Small Things

May 27, 2017

This micro-moth was in the garden yesterday. Nigel tells me it is Syndemis musculana sometimes known as Dark-barred Twist, though verncular names do not seem to be much used in the micromothing world.

Syndemis musculana 170526

and today this looper caterpillar which Nigel tells me is the Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata) fell onto the lawnmower.

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This fly, Murdo tells me is a Phaonia, a very large genus of the family Muscidae, but since I have had seven different species over the past five years it will need to go for proper determination:

fly 20170519 (1)

Meanwhile, the fungus on Dryas octopetala from Wednesday is looking very likely to be Isothea rhytismoides. The NBN Atlas has 22 records for the British Isles, all in Scotland or Ireland, but none since 1993, and none in Scotland since 1990. (Also none anywhere near Skye.) Here is a better image:

Dryas fungus 3

and a link to things found on Dryas. (The English starts below the Dutch.)

Allt Osglan

May 26, 2017

It was never going to match up with the previous day, but the Osglan Burn is pleasantly wooded and I managed 137 plant taxa in the previously very thinly recorded (4 spp) tetrad NG43Z. There were still Wood Anemones in flower

Anemones Allt Osglan

and I saw my first damselfly (Large Red) and dragonfly (Four-spotted Chaser) of the year.

The roadside by the northern edge of the tetrad yielded a nice patch of Trollius europaeus (Globeflower) next to some fine specimens of Orchis mascula (Early-purple Orchid).

Berraraig Bay and Beyond

May 26, 2017

Back in the last century Dryas octopetala (Mountain Avens) (1976) and Epipactis atrorubens (Dark-red Helleborine) (1996) were discovered on the cliffs of Berraraig Bay. Then in 2006 I added a third Nationally Scare species to the same habitat, Cephalanthera longifolia (Narrow-leaved Helleborine).

For several years I have been meaning to get there in May when the Cephalanthera is in flower and on Thursday I achieved it. I counted over 40 plants, over a 700m stretch. I will certainly have missed some non-flowering specimens as quite a few plants are a little way up a near-vertical cliff.

This was an exceptional day for me in that I added the three Nationally Scarce species above to tetrad NG55C (as well as other nice things like Neottia ovata (Common Twayblade), and two to NG55H, Dryas and Equisetum x font-queri (Font-Quer’s Horsetail) as well as Neottia ovata again, and Vicia sylvatica (Wood Vetch).

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Now I know Equisetum x font-queri, unlike Equisetum telmateia (Great Horsetail), is supposed to bear a cone at the top of fertile stems but this is ridiculous:

Equisetum font-queri Berreraig Bay Malformed

There were rusts and similar I haven’t found before:

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and all sorts of other things – generally a great day.

Pollination of Sword-leaved Helleborines

May 22, 2017

As it is the season for flowers on Cephalanthera longifolia (Narrow- or Sword-leaved Helleborine) and it is a wet afternoon, I decided to see what was known about its pollination.  The short answer is that, according to an article in the Journal of the Hardy Orchid Society in 2013, “Regular pollinators are small Halictus or Lasioglossum bees” These are known as sweat bees as they are attracted to the salt in human sweat, apparently.

There are no records on the National Biodiversity Network Atlas of Halictus spp. in the NW of Scotland but Lasioglossum spp. are here – so the chances are that these are what pollinate our Narrow-leaved Helleborines.

The lip of the flower has yellow-orange ridges that imitate pollen and tempt insects to visit. The insect bends forward searching for nectar. When it finds out there isn’t any, it retreats and lifts its body, touching the stigmatic surface and scraping off sticky stigmatic fluid. Continuing its retreat it touches the pollinia which are pulled out of the anther and stick to the insect’s back. When it visits another flower, the forward sticking pollinia are pushed against the stigma and pollination is completed. Amazing plants, orchids.

Fertilisation is clearly a bit hit and miss, with a visitor to the main Sleat colony in 2014 reporting “flowers had clearly not been fertilised, and had simply dropped off after withering.” Similarly the Bearreraig Bay colony in 2011 had no fruits.  However, in 2006 a couple of plants at the latter site had fruits .

ceph long fruits

Bearreraig Bay  plant in  2006

It may be that early flowering equates to a lack of pollinators in some years.

Glam Burn & Allt an Doire Domhain, Raasay

May 21, 2017

Recovering from a heavy cold, I wasn’t up for a long hike today but (mostly) before the rain came I walked along the Glam Burn from Glam and back up to the road by the Allt an Doire Domhain, all in tetrad NG54L. It was an excellent wander and I refreshed quite a lot of pre-2000 records as well as adding a few that were completely new.

Glam Burn May 2017

Glam Burn

Many plants are now in flower, including a variety of sedges. Here are a couple that are not, but are very much in evidence:

The Pyrola media (Intermediate Wintergreen) colony, which I first found in 1997, contained just six plants.  In 2008 I recorded 18, which makes today’s count a bit worrying. The Drosera rotundifolia (Round-leaved Sundew) has set to work catching midges.

I had a close encounter with a stag and also, on a different scale, with this chap:

Staphylinus erythropterus Glam Burn May 2017

Staphylinus erythropterus – A Rove Beetle

This is a beastie I see most years.